A Life Worth Listening To

Weighing of the Heart from the Book of the Dead
Weighing of the Heart Book of the Dead - Photographed by the British Museum; original artist unknown

How do you represent a life, musically?

Our group needed eight albums for our set and a theme to bind them.  The decisions we made were a pact between the three of us: a father, a contrarian, and an immigrant.  In the end, we poeticized a life. Imagining some contentless existence, its ebbs and flows, and then adding meaning and lyrics to it was weird, but city boys make do.

Each album crystallizes life’s phases – the joy and rebelliousness of youth, coming of age, self discovery, disillusionment, reflection and dying. These next few albums are honorable mentions, or maybe eulogies, for those that didn’t make the final cut.  I chose SZA’s CTRL as a stand-in for disillusionment and self discovery. It’s my favorite album of 2017 and I thought it was important to include at least one female lead artist in the aggregate.  Problematically, CTRL isn’t a Hip Hop album, it’s probably R&B, so Rhapsody’s Laila’s Wisdom rose in its place. It was substituted out for Kanye West’s College Dropout after a democratic vote at the last minute.  Another draft of the playlist had Linkin Park and Jay-Z’s Collision Course as a representation of playful creativity, teenage moodiness, and identity exploration.  Future’s DS2 and its wild compilation of expenditure, wanton hedonism, and Texas Tea also fell to the losing side of a vote.

Choices were made in favor of fidelity to the genre, theme, and format. While both are great albums, I personally prefer Outkast’s ATLiens to Aquemini; nevertheless, there are moments on Aquemini – especially the title track – that perfectly fit the motif of self discovery.  Outkast offers us a succinct blend of poetry and pimpin that emphasises difference without compromising brotherhood. Illmatic is plainly better than Hip Hop is Dead; however, HHID fills out a reflective role in a way the former doesn’t. Sacrifices were made and eventually we agreed to the list before you.

Like Father, Like Son
good kid, m.A.A.d city
College Dropout
2014 Forest Hill Drive
2pac’s Greatest Hits
Hip Hop is Dead

We pulled off an ouroboros I’m pretty proud of.  The last track of 4:44 is called Legacy and starts with a daughter asking her father what a will is and the song’s ensuing discussion of generational wealth leads directly back to Like Father Like Son’s opening interlude where a young man first comes of age and joins the family business.

The Muse Collaborative presents this album set as an excuse for community congregation. These albums, spread over 8 weeks, were 8 reasons to get out of the house and potentially turn a stranger into a friend, even if just for an hour and some change. Loved ones came out to show support, as did complete strangers.  We saw people who hadn’t spoken in years reconnect at a few of the listenings. And we told stories worth listening to.

I hope you enjoy.